Hansard and Journals

Hansard (debates)

Content provider
House of Representatives
Information
Date:
14 December 2010
Related documents

Electoral Referendum Bill — In Committee

[Volume:669;Page:16409]

Electoral Referendum Bill

In Committee

Clause 2A agreed to.

Part 1 Preliminary provisions

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) : I shall take a brief call on the Electoral Referendum Bill. The Green Party was very pleased with the discussion at the Electoral Legislation Committee about how the referendum was to be structured. There was a lot of discussion about the nature of the ballot paper itself and ensuring that the language used was readily understood. We used an English for speakers of other languages process to test that it was easily understood and that simple language was used to help those for whom English is a second language or who have difficulties with literacy. Some good work was done on this bill.

The Green Party was also very pleased to see caps on spending by the various players involved in the referendum campaign. Of course, at the last referendum we saw extraordinary amounts of money thrown at an attempt to keep first past the post—and the same people will attempt to return us to it this time, actually. They fought very hard last time for first past the post and used vast quantities of money. So we are very pleased to see the caps, notwithstanding the fact that I know that other parties disagree with it.

The issue we had with the bill, however, was the question of the point at which MMP will be reviewed. The provision in the bill, as it stands, is that if MMP wins the first referendum in 2011, there will be a review of MMP at that point. It will concern a number of factors, and the bill sets out some of those. That is good; we should continually review our electoral system to see what is working and what is not. MMP is still comparatively young in this country. It has been in use only since 1999, so it is important to—

Hon Member: 1996.

METIRIA TUREI: —1996, sorry. It is important to look at it and, in light of the experience we have had, to decide what changes need to be made. When the public are asked about MMP they have lots of ideas about what could be changed, and that is an important discussion for us to have. But the Greens say that that discussion should have happened before the proposition of a referendum was put forward. Voters, the public, citizens are entitled to a structured and resourced discussion on the kind of electoral system they want. If MMP was going to be put to the vote again, there should have been a chance for the public to engage in a discussion on the flaws and benefits of the current system of MMP before going to a vote on it. That would have been a way to ensure that our community had the best information available and were able to participate in the kind of system we should have. That did not happen, because of some strange electoral promise that, it appears, National made to somebody, although nobody knows whom. It came out of the blue that there would be a referendum. So now we are to have one. It is always up to the public to decide to vote on the electoral system, and that is fair enough.

As I said, MMP will be reviewed after the 2011 election, if it is successful in the referendum. But if it is not successful, then the system we will have during the period 2011 to 2014, in the lead up to a runoff between MMP and a new system, is the old form of MMP, which has not been changed since 1996. It will be compared with a very new system that will have been developed in light of our experience of MMP and in light of different electoral developments internationally. It will be a system that has been devised according to the best practice that we know of at the time. So it will not be a fair runoff. It will not be a fair runoff. Not only that; because of the process for constructing the new system and what it will look like, information about it will have been made very clear and available to the public. There will be a lot of discussion about the way that a new system might work and a lot of public engagement in that process. But there will not be a lot of discussion about, and engagement in, the MMP system that we use now, because so much focus will be on the new system. So the public discussion on the two different options they will be asked to vote for will be very, very different. The level of knowledge and information available to the public about the two systems that they will have to choose from will be very, very different. Because MMP will not have been reviewed, there will be the same level of public discussion about MMP and how it could be better.

The Green Party says there should be a review of MMP regardless of the outcome of the 2011 referendum. We say the public is entitled to have a say on, and make changes to, the MMP system, regardless of the referendum result, so that should MMP not succeed at the next referendum, the public will have the best choices from which they can make their decision. They will have available to them the most information about the benefits and the disadvantages of both systems. That is only right, because the voting system is a system that belongs to the people, it is a system that belongs to citizens, and citizens are entitled to make decisions based on the best possible information. There will not be that opportunity for our community to have the best possible information and to be able to make a choice between the two best types of systems, because the old, creaky MMP that we know could do with a little bit of looking at will be set against the brand new, shiny version of something completely different, and we do not even know what it will be. There is a real disincentive here, and I think the Government has set up the referendum in such a way to make it more difficult for a proper set of choices to be put to the electorate in 2014, if MMP does not make it through the 2011 referendum.

I know there are lots of concerns about the nature of this discussion, but in my view, no matter what our views are about how we construct electoral law, the No. 1 most important thing is that the public have the best access to the best possible information so that they can make the best decision in their interests, because the voting system belongs to them. The Government in constructing the referendum as it has done in this legislation has taken from the community and from citizens the ability to have access to that best possible information, and that is wrong. We should not be doing that in legislation, and we certainly should not be mucking around with that principle when it comes to the most important question of all, which is not what Government one elects but how one goes about electing a Government. That has got to be the most critical constitutional electoral decision that any community will make—not who is elected but how they are elected.

What we want in this country is the fairest, most transparent, and most representative system for electing people to Parliament who are therefore represented in the formation of the Government. That is what MMP does. It is a much fairer system than the one we had in the past. We should always be looking to improve and make fairer and more representative our electoral system, so that the public can have confidence that when they go to the ballot box their vote will count, which happens under MMP—people have two votes and both count—and that they are represented in this House of Representatives, first and foremost; that their voices will be represented in this House by the people whom they most prefer to speak for them, which is part of what representative democracy is all about. But also, when we make laws about how that process works, we must have first and foremost in our minds the need for our people to have a fair system that they can have some faith and trust in.

I have already said in the earlier debate on the electoral finance law that I have concerns about the integrity of our electoral finance system. On this matter I think there is an issue of integrity, too. We are not ensuring that we have the most integrity in the process by which we are to choose our electoral system. I am not sure whether the Labour Party has put up the Supplementary Order Paper that it was intending to put up to make this change, but I want to highlight for the community that a real concern is that people will not have the opportunity to make changes and to discuss and consider the MMP system in the way that they ought to, should it not be successful in the referendum in 2011. Thank you.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) : I was not going to take a call on this part because this part is not particularly relevant to the issue that Metiria Turei just raised, but I thought I should foreshadow that, yes, we will be moving an amendment to remove clause 54 from the bill, which is in a later part. I will talk to the reasons why we will do that at the appropriate time, because I am sure the Chair will rule me out of order if I was to try to discuss it now. He is nodding his head very sagely.

I will talk about clause 3, “Purpose of Act”. It states: “The purpose of this Act is to make provision for an indicative referendum to be held in conjunction with the first general election after the commencement of this Act, in order to provide electors with the opportunity to express an opinion on the preferred system of voting for election to the House of Representatives in New Zealand.” I think it is worthwhile to reflect in the Committee stage on why the purpose has been written in that particular way. As a country, we did not know that we would be having a referendum on MMP, despite the very widely held misbelief that we had been promised one when MMP was first introduced under a National Government in 1996, but we did have a very strong signal from National in this regard.

I have a quote from the coverage of the announcement made when Mr John Key, then the Leader of the Opposition, announced in the lead-up to the 2008 election the 10 election pledges that the National Party was taking to the election. One of the pledges—in fact, the very last pledge of that list of pledges—was a promise for a referendum on MMP. I will come to this point later on, when we get to the provisions relating to the caps on expenditure for third parties, but it is important to remember that we already have provisions in law on citizens initiated referenda. This is a citizens initiated referendum. It is masquerading as a Government one, and the deal was done in the lead-up to the 2008 election. Here is the quote from the New Zealand Herald: “Mr Key, who made the referendum one of 10 election pledges in his speech to National’s annual conference today, said he believed voters would reject MMP. ‘I think the country may well vote MMP out’ ”—that is a split infinitive if ever I saw one, but there we go—“ ‘but I think they will vote in another proportional system,’ he told reporters. ‘I don’t think they’ll go back to first past the post.’ But after 12 years of MMP it was important to give voters a choice, he said. ‘I do think voters thought they were going to get an opportunity to kick the tyres and we’re giving them that opportunity.’ ” I hate that expression; in fact, recently he has used it very inappropriately in relation to the Pike River disaster, as well. On this particular occasion, he is making it sound as if kicking the tyres is a very casual thing, but, actually, it is not. This is quite deliberate, and we know exactly who is behind the desire to have this referendum.

We also know that this statement: “I don’t think they’ll go back to first past the post.” was put there deliberately, because the target is the supplementary-member representation system. The target is to get rid of MMP and replace it with the supplementary-member representation system, which is first past the post with a winner’s bonus. That is all it is. It is nothing more than that. It is not a system of proportional representation. Of the 120 seats in Parliament, only a small number—30 of the MPs—are voted in under the supplementary-member representation system, so it does not make the result proportional, at all.

I think it is important, when looking at the purpose of the legislation in clause 3, that we are talking about people expressing an opinion on the preferred system of voting for election to the House of Representatives. This was a deliberate strategy to get this in front of the public eye. It has nothing to do with kicking the tyres; it has everything to do with the predetermined plan—well, I was going to quote that wonderful expression from Justice Mahon from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Mount Erebus Air Disaster, but I will not use that language because I might be held up for a breach of the Standing Orders for that, as well.

When we get to the other provisions of the bill, I will certainly talk about the amount of the cap and why it is important. I will also talk about the amendment that I am moving by way of Supplementary Order Paper.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN (Deputy Leader—ACT) : I will respond to the comments of Lianne Dalziel and Metiria Turei, but before I do so, I will place something on record. The Hon Lianne Dalziel keeps asking why we are discussing these bills individually and not as a group of three. Let me advise her and the rest of the Committee that the ACT Party had no objection to discussing the Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill and the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill together. All we asked was that they not be discussed at the same time as the Electoral Referendum Bill, which we saw as a totally separate bill. We wanted it discussed in a totally separate debate, as had been proposed prior to 2 o’clock this afternoon.

Let me come back to the comments of Metiria Turei. Lianne Dalziel referred to the fact that Metiria Turei had used the opportunity of speaking on Part 1 to engage in quite a wide-ranging debate. She related the history of MMP. I will come back to the history of MMP and the reason why we are having this referendum, but this afternoon Metiria Turei made comments that simply astound me. I cannot believe what she has said.

Metiria Turei said that there would not be the opportunity to have the best possible information. Those were her words. She said that there will not be the opportunity to have the best possible information. She said that we have taken from the community the chance to have the best possible information. What, she asked, is more important than informing people about, and voting on, the system that elects their politicians—not so much the politicians themselves but the options for our electoral system. She criticised the fact that people will be denied that information. Well, the reason I find those comments absolutely astounding is that I suspect the Green Party and other members of this House are voting for provisions that will restrict that very information and deny groups the opportunity to pull together and form organisations to stand up and speak for or against a particular electoral system.

The reason this bill is so flawed is that it restricts the rights of ordinary New Zealanders to spend more than $300,000 promoting a particular system. They can spend no more than $300,000. Metiria Turei should be taking a good, hard look at herself and at her party’s position. She criticises the fact that the people of New Zealand will be denied the opportunity to have the best possible information, yet Metiria Turei and other members of this House are doing exactly that, because they are restricting the right of third parties to be involved in this debate.

I come now to the comments of Lianne Dalziel. I think she made some very important points. Lianne Dalziel and the Labour Party are another group of people who have argued that we need to restrict the rights of people to put their position. I think that the Hon Lianne Dalziel has explained very well this afternoon why we should not in fact put on that restriction. She has just quoted a statement that our Prime Minister made when he was the Leader of the Opposition. She said—and I have no reason to disbelieve what she said—that John Key, who is now the Prime Minister of New Zealand, said that he thinks people will vote MMP out and that they will not vote for first past the post but for a new proportional system.

The reason I make those points is that the Prime Minister was making a comment. He was giving the public a steer. He was indicating that maybe it is not such a good idea to have MMP, but that if we are to vote out MMP, then perhaps we need to vote in a new system that is proportional—or, as Lianne Dalziel would argue, only slightly proportional. The Prime Minister’s view has huge weight. Just by the very manner of his position, his view has huge weight. If one takes the position of the Labour Party and is opposed to what the Prime Minister is saying, then one will find that we are restricting the right of ordinary New Zealanders to stand up and speak out against the Prime Minister.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: And spend $300,000. How many ordinary citizens have access to $300,000?

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: Yes, they have $300,000, but they have $300,000 in the context of a general election where the Labour Party will spend close to $5 million and the National Party will spend close to $5 million. The Green Party spent $1.8 million at the last election, so we have no reason to believe that it will not do the same thing again at the next election. So in the context of political spending, whether it is $10 million, $12 million, $15 million, or maybe millions more dollars, people who want to put the alternative view to the Prime Minister’s—and I am not saying whether the Prime Minister is right or wrong—are restricted to spending no more than $300,000.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: So is the Prime Minister.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: I say to the Hon Lianne Dalziel that the reason why it is important not to have those restrictions is that the Prime Minister is in a very powerful position. He can make comments, which are carried in the media, that favour one particular voting system, and he can steer the public in a particular way. That seems to be what Lianne Dalziel is criticising.

So if people strongly support MMP—and there are people in this country who do—how do they counter the Prime Minister’s comments? How do they counter the free publicity the Prime Minister gets when he goes on national television and says: “Look, these are the faults of MMP, but we’ve got a better deal for you.”? The only way people can counter those comments is to try to get into the media, to try to get a campaign going, and to try to put up arguments so that the people of New Zealand are informed and can be in exactly the position that Metiria Turei wants them to be in—informed, and with very best possible information.

The ACT Party will be supporting the Electoral Referendum Bill. We think that the people of New Zealand should have that opportunity. It is a very, very sad day for New Zealand when we pass a bill that restricts the right of New Zealanders to participate in this referendum and denies New Zealanders the ability to get the best possible information, in the way the Green Party says they should be able to. Thank you.

AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) : I start by asking for your assistance, Mr Chairperson. My understanding is that we are still on Part 1—is that correct?

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Yes.

AMY ADAMS: One would not know it from the tenor of the speeches—

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): We have strayed a little bit broader than I would have hoped, actually.

AMY ADAMS: Yes. I thought that was the case.

I will make a brief contribution to the debate on Part 1. I will focus on clause 3, “Purpose of Act”. It is worth summarising the purpose of the bill. New Zealanders understood—the Hon Lianne Dalziel mentioned this in her contribution, and she acknowledged that it is the case—when they voted to switch to the MMP system of voting in 1993 that there would be another referendum on the matter. In this House we all understand that that, technically, was not correct. I talked in my earlier contributions about how the small print at the bottom of that very clearly stated that it was if Parliament agreed. None the less, there is a strong feeling out there that New Zealanders thought they would have another say on this. That is why it has always been the National Party position that we would give New Zealanders a chance to have that second say on MMP.

That is exactly what this bill does. It says to New Zealand that we are now 14 years into an MMP system of voting, and this is a chance for people to come back to the issue, to turn their minds to it again, and to decide whether it gives them the system that they thought they were getting. If it does, then we can move into a review of that system so the issue can effectively be put to bed. These things are never finalised, of course, but it would be nice to think that if, out of this process, New Zealand elects to retain the MMP system of voting—I should say “keep”, because that is the language we adopted with the paper—then that will certainly put to bed the issue of whether there should have been a second referendum. I think it is just worth commenting on that.

When there was a select committee inquiry into MMP in 2001, the issue of whether there should be another referendum was hotly contested. I know I was not here, but I have certainly read through all the papers. It was very interesting to me that even then it was decided by only a very narrow vote that there would not be a second referendum. The only reason why a second referendum was not supported was that it was thought to be a bit too soon.

If 2001 was too soon—and arguably it was—I think the time has come. It has always been the policy of this Government to deliver on it. That is why we have the bill before us, and that is why the purpose of this bill, as set out in clause 3, is to give New Zealanders the chance, through an indicative referendum, to once more comment on the system of voting that they want to use to elect the House of Representatives.

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): There are amendments in the name of Hilary Calvert to clauses 5, 12, and schedule 1, as set out on Supplementary Order Paper 198, but they have been ruled out of order as they are outside the scope of the bill.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN (Whip—ACT) : I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. My understanding was that that amendment would not come up in this particular part of the bill.

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I have a running sheet here, and the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 198 in the name of Hilary Calvert are on it. I tell the Committee that it has been ruled out of order in connection with Part 1 of the bill. The Supplementary Order Paper refers in part to clause 5, and clause 5 is in Part 1, so therefore I had to deal with that amendment now. I have made that explanation, so I will now put the question.

A party vote was called for on the question, That Part 1 be agreed to.

Ayes 116 New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
Noes 5 ACT New Zealand 5.
Part 1 agreed to.

Part 2 Provisions relating to referendum

The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): The debate on this part includes schedules 2 and 3.

  • The question was put that the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 198 in the name of Hilary Calvert to clause 32A to raise the expenses limit to $500,000 be agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the amendment be agreed to.

Ayes 5 ACT New Zealand 5.
Noes 116 New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
Amendment not agreed to.
  • The question was put that the amendment set out on Supplementary Order Paper 198 in the name of Hilary Calvert to clause 32A to raise the expenses limit to $750,000 be agreed to.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the amendment be agreed to.

Ayes 5 ACT New Zealand 5.
Noes 116 New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
Amendment not agreed to.
  • Part 2 agreed to.

Part 3 Advertising

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) : I will take just a brief call on Part 3. This part deals with the total referendum expenses of a registered promoter in respect of the regulated period not exceeding $300,000. I presume that there are also amendments to this part from the ACT Party—it just seemed odd to be dealing with them in respect of Part 2.

The only point I want to make is that the citizens initiated referendum limit is $50,000, and as this is a citizens initiated referendum masquerading as a Government referendum, I think the amount should have been the same. This, however, was a negotiated settlement, as it were, between the political parties. We have swallowed some dead rats on both sides, and we are not going to have a debate about who swallowed the bigger rat—the Minister in the chair is looking vaguely uncomfortable. The reason this figure was settled on was that it represented the lowest end of a range that represents a medium-level campaign spend in the retail sector. We are talking, for example, about something that would include some television advertising, print media, advertising in the newspapers, and brochures being delivered to people’s houses. That seemed to be an acceptable level at which to resolve the matter.

Access to television was the one area where I felt there was an incredible sense of disquiet, and that was the reason there were so many more submissions to the Electoral Legislation Committee on the third-party campaign expenditure limits in the Electoral Referendum Bill, as opposed to the other legislation. Everyone knows that television advertising is very powerful. Companies would not use it if it were not as powerful as it is, and it can be used in a way that I think is unfortunate, in that we could see a campaign of deliberate misinformation about the effect of the supplementary-member representation system.

I know that every speech I will be giving between now and when we hold the referendum will refer to the supplementary-member representation system as first past the post with a winner’s bonus, because that is what it is. I will just put on record how that would have worked in the last election, and, fortunately, the New Zealand Herald columnist John Armstrong put it all together in a nice little piece. I will quote that into the record: “And before anyone mouths the words ‘supplementary member’, let’s beware of false prophets in sheep’s clothing. No doubt those wanting a return to those dark ages will seductively offer the supplementary member system as a halfway house between FPP and MMP. That system is in part proportional. It might look like a compromise. It is not. It is nothing short of snake oil elixir. Had last year’s election been fought under that system with a Parliament made up of 90 constituency seats and 30 list seats, National would have won 67 of them, compared with its current 58. That party would have had an absolute majority of 14 seats with just under 45 per cent of the vote. The Greens’ current entitlement of nine seats, would have been slashed to just two. So much for proportionality.”

I wanted to read that into the record in Part 3 because I want the public of New Zealand to know that they are not being offered a straight choice between proportional representation and a non-proportional system. They are being offered proportional representation in exchange for a version of first past the post, which looks as if it might be a compromise, but which is nothing of the sort. I think that with the campaign expenditure limits we have some hope for ensuring the public education campaign run by the Electoral Commission has some chance of success, in respect of ensuring the real messages get out there and ensuring people understand what the choices are.

The last point I make is in response to one of the comments made by the ACT Party: this is not a debate about freedom of speech. It is not about free speech; it is about paid speech. That ACT member said that he is championing the ordinary New Zealander who wants to speak out against the Prime Minister’s position on supplementary-member representation or against MMP, but that member is not championing their cause, at all. He is not championing their cause one bit. Which ordinary New Zealander has access to $300,000 in order to promote their particular view? There are those of us who will continue to express those views, and the expression of opinion is perfectly valid. But paid advertising should be accurate, and it should not misrepresent the importance of this referendum to the people of New Zealand.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN (Deputy Leader—ACT) : I will respond to those comments from the Hon Lianne Dalziel because, like the Hon Lianne Dalziel, I was expecting a debate about the expenditure limits—the limits on the amount promoters will be able to spend for or against any particular electoral system—specified in Part 3 of the Electoral Referendum Bill. I was somewhat surprised that the Chairperson put the amendments from Hilary Calvert to the vote in the previous part. The ACT Party promoted an amendment that would allow third parties to spend up to $750,000; if we could not get Parliament to agree to a $750,000 limit, we suggested $500,000.

It is interesting that Lianne Dalziel criticised the fact that we put forward an amendment that would allow a third party the ability to spend $500,000, because she would call that paid speech. Yes, it is paid speech: it is buying advertising. It is what political parties do. Earlier this afternoon we voted on a bill that would enable the two major political parties in this Parliament to spend over $5 million—$5 million in paid speech, I tell Ms Dalziel.

Hon Member: How much?

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: Five million dollars. Yet we will restrict the right of an organisation that wants to be involved in this referendum to try to sway the votes of New Zealanders one way or the other to the sum of no more than $300,000.

That is not the only thing Ms Dalziel misrepresented. She derided my contribution by asking which ordinary New Zealander has $300,000 to spend. We are not talking about individual New Zealanders; we are talking about organisations. We are talking about organisations that want to get involved in this election campaign.

I sat on the Electoral Legislation Committee that considered this submission, as did Ms Dalziel. She will be well aware that an organisation came along and submitted on this bill—an organisation that had formed to promote the MMP option. It was not one person; it was a group of people who purported to represent a much larger group of people, and they sent their spokespeople along. I do not know the name of the organisation; I cannot recall it—it may have been “Promote MMP” or “Pro-MMP”—but certainly an organisation had formed for the purposes of promoting MMP. That is right: it is not one person, but a whole series of people, an organisation—a grassroots New Zealand organisation. So for Lianne Dalziel to stand up and suggest that the ACT Party is talking about one New Zealander having the right to spend $300,000 misrepresents our position. Worse than that, she actually knows that she misrepresents our position.

The other point Lianne Dalziel made was that under the provisions of this bill, third parties—organisations such as the one that appeared before our select committee—will have access to television. They will have access to television to promote their view one way or the other in support of or against one of the four different systems that are being put forward.

It is interesting that she finds the use of television particularly obnoxious. The reason Labour finds television obnoxious is that it is powerful. One can actually persuade and influence people through television. We know that one of the reasons Len Brown’s committee put down for their success in Auckland was the early use of television.

Television is also denied to the smaller political parties in this Parliament; they are denied the chance to spend their own money on television. Another major failing of this Parliament is that it has not taken the opportunity to correct that problem.

Amy Adams: This is the referendum bill; it’s not the finance bill.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: This is the referendum bill, and I explain to Ms Adams that under the referendum bill people can form organisations for or against one or more of the electoral systems that have been promoted. They can spend their own money, they can spend it up to $300,000, and they can spend it on television. It is a pity that parties in this Parliament are denied the opportunity to do that.

Notwithstanding the fact that the limit is set at $300,000, the ACT Party will be voting for this bill. We support the right of New Zealanders to have a say on their electoral system; we think it is important. But also we think it is important that the people be informed and that they understand what is being offered to them. It is a tragedy that by putting limits on organisations such as the one that appeared before our Electoral Legislation Committee in Wellington—I think it included academics from Victoria University—we deny New Zealanders the opportunity to be fully informed.

I note that Lianne Dalziel referred to the supplementary member system. She called it first past the post with a winner’s bonus. I could take issue with that description of it, too, but I will not do so.

The other amendment that Hilary Calvert put before Parliament this afternoon was to do with the actual voting form that appears in schedule 1. I thought that I might have had an opportunity to speak to that before it was put before Parliament. Earlier this afternoon, the ACT Party put forward an amendment that would have provided for a vote in the referendum on the existence of the Māori seats. We did that because in the 1986 Royal Commission on the Electoral System the commissioners in recommending MMP also said that once there is a proportional system, there is no longer any need to have electoral seats set up on a racial basis.

Hone Harawira: They were joking.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: Mr Harawira may well say they were joking, but they were not. The record shows that the royal commission in recommending MMP said if there is a proportional system, a system where every vote counts, there is simply no need for the Māori seat option. It is a pity that Parliament took the opportunity of voting down that amendment this afternoon. Thank you.

  • Part 3 agreed to.

Part 4 Review and miscellaneous provisions

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) : I have a very brief call to make, simply to alert the Committee to my amendment to the Electoral Referendum Bill, which is to remove clause 54. The effect of removing clause 54 would be to require a review of MMP to occur after the next election, and it would occur regardless of the outcome of the first referendum. Clause 54 currently requires the review of MMP provided for in Part 4 of the bill to come into force only if, in fact, the first referendum decides that an alternative to MMP is preferred. That then means that the second referendum, if National were to be re-elected, would be held on the basis of a flawed version of MMP, which people agree is flawed. Rather than actually fixing what is wrong with the system and putting that up against a new system, a flawed system would be allowed to go up against a brand new version of whichever system is preferred out of the four.

The one point I make is that if I had been writing the rules for this referendum, I would have ensured that MMP was reviewed before the first referendum, but I was not, so obviously Labour has had no influence in that regard. It was a Government decision to put the flawed version of MMP up for consideration without fixing the problems with it, and then to put it up for reconsideration. But given that situation, the Labour Party will make a pledge at the next election that should we become the Government, we will ensure that the second referendum is held after the MMP system is reviewed and any of the flaws in it are resolved, so that it will be the reviewed MMP system that goes up against the preferred option at the 2014 general election. We are committed to the same timetable that the Government has set out, but we will review MMP and we will fix any of the flaws that we find in that system, as evidenced from the input of the people of New Zealand.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN (Deputy Leader—ACT) : First, I will take this opportunity to simply say that the ACT Party will be voting against the amendment in the name of the Hon Lianne Dalziel. I assure the National Government and the Minister in the chair, the Minister of Justice, that we will be voting against this amendment.

A couple of comments from the previous speaker, Lianne Dalziel, need to be responded to. Given that none of the National members took the call, I will respond to those comments.

Amy Adams: Give us a chance.

Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN: Amy Adams said to give those members a chance, but National has taken just one call, I think, in this debate—one call since quarter-past 3. We have heard from Lianne Dalziel that MMP is flawed. Well, who says it is flawed? Yes, some people say it is flawed, but I ask what right the Labour Party has to pronounce that MMP is flawed. Who says so? Where is those members’ evidence? Where is the overwhelming evidence it is flawed?

Lianne Dalziel talked about fixing the problem. Well, there is no need for a review, and the ACT Party will be voting against her amendment. However, Lianne Dalziel raised a very, very good point. She has just told the public of New Zealand, notwithstanding the consultation and the extraordinary effort the Minister has made to reach agreement—and he has conceded a number of points, not least of which is a $300,000 limit on the right of free speech—that if Labour wins the next election, all bets are off. All bets are off. She said: “We have reached consensus, we have reached agreement, but if Labour wins the next election, we will screw you.” That is exactly what she said. She said that if Labour wins the next election in 2011, Labour will not proceed down the second referendum road unless the Government goes and fixes the system—the system that we do not even necessarily know is broken.

I put it to National members in the Chamber this afternoon that Mr Power is a gentleman. Mr Power is a gentleman. He has gone along to the Labour members and has consulted with them, but I say to my colleagues on this side of the Chamber that they have been screwed. They have been screwed because they are being told this afternoon that, rather than trust their judgment, allow third parties to campaign for what they believe, and put the Minister’s bill through in the way that he had originally presented it, they have fallen for a trap. That is one of the reasons the ACT Party strongly opposes the $300,000 limit. Let me simply say to Mr Mallard and Ms Dalziel that a further reason for the National-led Government to be re-elected in 2011 is so that it can give effect to the compromised agreement that this bill represents. Thank you.

Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice) : To conclude this debate, I make a couple of comments in respect of Part 4, and in particular the amendment by Lianne Dalziel to delete clause 54 from the Electoral Referendum Bill. That was well signalled to the Government, and we were quite aware that that was Labour’s position. National will oppose Ms Dalziel’s amendment on the basis that we think it is important that the vote on the question of the electoral system that the New Zealand public chooses is between two systems that they have experienced and worked under. Essentially, that is the difference between the two positions.

To say that the negotiations between all parties have not been done in good faith is probably taking it a step too far. To be fair to all parties present in the Committee stage since 3.15 p.m., I have not seen any evidence of that; each party has done what it said it would do. In fairness, that is what we are ultimately trying to achieve by Part 4 and these three bills. There may be aspects of Part 4, the rest of this bill, and the preceding two bills in Committee that each individual party would rather have done another way. I can assure members of the Committee of the whole House that indeed we would have done some things differently, as I know other parties would have, having listened to their contributions to the debates this afternoon.

In the end, Part 4 and the rest of this legislation has to do one thing—that is, to endure beyond the change of Government where we get ourselves as a Parliament and a country into a situation where a winning political party forms the view that its might makes it right. The concluding point about the Committee stage of this legislation is to ensure that at the very least there is a consistency of approach to how we conduct elections in New Zealand, whether it be an MMP referendum or, for that matter, electoral finance legislation. There are many aspects of this legislation that parties would do differently, but the nature of broad consensus for this sort of work to endure is that we all have to come slightly short of what each party regards as an ideal position. To that end, National will not be supporting the amendment as tabled by Ms Dalziel. I am looking forward to the conclusion of this debate, the third readings tomorrow, and Christmas.

  • The question was put that the following amendment in the name of the Hon Lianne Dalziel to clause 54 be agreed to:

to omit this clause.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the amendment be agreed to.

Ayes 52 New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Progressive 1.
Noes 69 New Zealand National 58; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; United Future 1.
Amendment not agreed to.
  • Part 4 agreed to.

Schedule 1

A party vote was called for on the question, That Schedule 1 be agreed to.

Ayes 116 New Zealand National 58; New Zealand Labour 42; Green Party 9; Māori Party 5; Progressive 1; United Future 1.
Noes 5 ACT New Zealand 5.
Schedule 1 agreed to.

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

  • Progress to be reported presently.
  • House resumed.
  • The Chairperson reported the Electoral (Finance Reform and Advance Voting) Amendment Bill with amendment, the Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill without amendment, and the Electoral Referendum Bill without amendment.
  • Report adopted.